Controlling the Chaos
I don’t know what to think anymore. I just feel a sense of unease that ebbs and flows with the news cycle. That makes me almost thrill with dread when I check the news (which I seem to do all the more frequently.) It seems that one of the few things that relieves this tension is to tunnel once more into the online world. By searching for pictures of pugs on Instagram, for example. In my fears and anxiety, when faced with the turmoil of the world, my reaction seems to be to turn to the most simple and irrelavant forms of entertainment.
Is this a good thing? Is it OK that when I read an article about Trump or Brexit, about Yemen or Syria, all I want to do is curl up in a ball and watch ‘David S. Pumpkins’ on repeat? (Seriously, you need to check it out.) It is perhaps only natural that when faced with a messy world and visceral accounts of injustice and suffering, all I want to do is feel distracted. Distracted and gently amused apparently.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the rise of ‘post-truth politics’ and the seemingly unending series of conflicts and crises that we are facing, have gone hand in hand with the rise of memes, gifs and Instagram stories. Those simple things which make us feel more connected, yet somehow further apart. Choosing the right GIF to send to someone, the right meme to post on someone’s Facebook wall for their birthday (just writing happy birthday is so 2010) and the right moment to share with your followers, is one easy way to distract yourself from the serious business of ‘adulting,’ not to mention the political fallout from one decision or another.
Why make a decision when you can watch what your beautiful Instagram friends are up to in their perfect lives? Why get on with that thing you need to do, when you can curate the perfect shot? Why engage, when it’s so easy to despair and scroll through your feed (again)?
When my mind is in chaos, as it so often seems to be, when I open the news and my heart inevitably sinks, it is reassuring to return once again to the ordered world of my online space, where my favourites are bookmarked, friends organised, and inbox tidied. It is like a 21st Century shed, or perhaps ‘man cave’, with all my books alphabetised and tools polished. I can avoid eye-contact with the articles that stress me out, or close the tabs I don’t want to see, even un-friend those who I disagree with. In short, I am in control.
At a time when things seem to be spinning out of control, I am desperately clinging to any feeling of being in charge I can. Unfortunately, in this case, I am effectively ignoring the problem rather than solving it. Not that I can personally solve the problems causing me stress, but I can engage with them. I can recognise that I will never be in control. That any feeling that I am, in any area of my life, is simply an illusion. It’s a way of making myself feel better; of building a tower above the mountain of crap that seems to be threatening to choke me.
I need to recognise instead that there is one who is in control. One who has a plan for me and the world, who wants me to engage positively, in whatever ways I am able, with the problems around me. Seeking to hide away in an internet man cave, taking hours to choose my new Facebook profile (and matching cover of course) is fruitless navel-gazing, when I could be talking, praying, reading, engaging with those around me.
So, is it good thing to distract myself with internet nonsense? With ‘Instagramming’ my perfect life? Well, not exactly. It’s brushing the mess under the mat, burying my head in the sand, when I could be making a positive impact in some way, somehow.
At the same time, after I’ve read yet another depressing article about something or other, there is no harm in indulging a little internet fluff. As long as that fluff, that nonsense, doesn’t become the main thing. Just as long as I’m taking seriously my responsibility in a serious world. Seeing Christ in the eyes of others, praying for justice, making a difference in response to God’s goodness. Seeking sanctification.
These things are more important than me checking, again, that my emails are sorted into the correct folders. I should be reminded through these things, through seeking the one who set the world in motion, just how ‘in control’ creation is. Just not in my control.
That’s probably just as well.